Lady Macbeth and Macbeth act in partnership to benefit their own goals. They are locked together by destiny and both have the seed of foul ambition growing in their corrupt minds. Although we are made to believe Lady Macbeth is the only one willing to act underhandedly to gain power, Macbeth too would be willing to murder. They rely heavily on one and other, something, which is demonstrated whenever; the marriage slowly disintegrates after Duncan’s murder.
It is important to consider the audiences initial view of Macbeth and how this changes as we learn more about him.
The first impression of Macbeth given to the audience is from the Captain. The Captain calls Macbeth “brave” and says, “well he deserves that name.” This is the very first time that Macbeth is described in the play and we are given this impression of a strong, valiant and true man, all just from the word “brave.”
The Captain goes on to describe how Macbeth fought-
“Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution.”
The Captain goes into more detail here and we are given a vivid image of how Macbeth fights and how important he is to the Scottish army. The way his sword “smoked with bloody execution” gives this message across to the audience. The emotive word “smoked” gives the impression that the sword has been used so much, and killed so many people that it is hot from Macbeth’s actions. This is a hyperbole of Macbeth’s actions and is interesting when you compare it to Lady Macbeth’s description. Lady Macbeth claims Macbeth to be-
“Too full of the milk of human kindness.”
This descriptions clash as surely a man who smokes “bloody execution” cannot be full of compassion and love for his fellow man.
Macbeth’s fight towards Macdonwald also gives the audience the view of his loyalty and bravery. The way Macbeth-
“carved out his passage,
Til he faced the slave;
Which ne’er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
Till he unseamed him from the nave to chops.”
The use of the word “slave” to describe Macdonwald shows how traitors were viewed by the characters. This is important to remember, as Macbeth is later to become a traitor and shows how his views of rebelling change solely for himself.
Also, Macbeth latter becomes a ‘slave’ to Lady Macbeth’s thought and fantasies of being Queen of Scotland.
At this point the audience is yet to meet Macbeth and they view him as a hero and the protagonist of the play. This will soon change when we meet Macbeth and Lady Macbeth but until the audience find out the truth about the two characters their impression of Macbeth is boosted even more. After this the Norwegian army attack Scotland and the Scottish army were very weak. However Macbeth and Banquo fight back and are described as-
“sparrows eagles, or the hare the lion.”
This is an ironic phrase as a sparrow would never beat an eagle or a hare defeat a lion. This hints towards the ‘Divine Rights if Kings’ in which the king (lion or eagle) is in control and the people below him (sparrow or hare) should be subservient to him and used as the king desire. A sparrow defeating an eagle of Hare defeating a lion shows the unnatural balance whenever the ‘Divine Rights of Kings’ are disturbed. It could also suggest Lady Macbeth’s dominance over Macbeth. Lady Macbeth would be perceived in this era as the weaker of the two, but the image of the lion serving the hare suggest Macbeth serves Lady Macbeth.
Macbeth fights and the Captain tells how valiant they were-
“doubly redoubled strokes upon the foes.”
The Captain cannot finish the story and Ross tells the rest. He emphasizes on how out numbered they were, “with terrible numbers” and how bad it looked for Scotland, “began a dismal conflict.” Ross uses an example of a Pagan god to describe how Scotland won. He describes Macbeth as “Bellona’s bridegroom.” Bellona’s bridegroom is Mars, the Roman god of war. Shakespeare compares characters to pagan gods heavily throughout the play and it is important to note that Macbeth is compared to a favoured and loved Roman god at this moment in the play.
At this point the audience views Macbeth as the main protagonist and associates him with bravery, loyalty and justice. This will rapidly change however whenever Lady Macbeth is introduced and shows Macbeth for what he really is.
In Act One Scene Five Lady Macbeth describes Macbeth similarly to what the Captain says; however she knows how to manipulate Macbeth into doing what she wants. There could be a comparison drawn here between Lady Macbeth and Queen Elizabeth I, who rules before James I. Elizabeth was famous for using men like putty and making them do whatever she asked. The reign of Elizabeth I is considered as one of the most powerful and influential monarchs of all time. Elizabeth stood as an example of a strong woman and leader, similar to what Lady Macbeth wished to be. However, in the Elizabethan era woman were restricted in what they could do and were not considered equal to men.
Lady Macbeth recognises that Macbeth is “too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness” and would not be able to become king by “the nearest way.” She understands that Macbeth-
“wouldst thou holily: wouldst not play false.”
Lady Macbeth loves her husband and wants him to have the best. She feels that Macbeth deserves the crown, that is why she says-
“Thus thou must do, if thou
Lady Macbeth has built this picture of Macbeth as kind, fair and honest and too noble to murder the king and innocent men.
Macbeth’s letter to Lady Macbeth in Act One Scene Five is our first encounter with Lady Macbeth and we quickly learn that she is like no Elizabethan woman. Macbeth writes to Lady Macbeth freely, spilling out everything. Macbeth feels like he completely trusts Lady Macbeth. He feels that it is his duty to inform her that the witches called to him “Hail King that shalt be!” It is also apparent in the letter of Macbeth’s love for Lady Macbeth. He refers to her as “my dearest partner of greatness.” This shows that Macbeth considers Lady Macbeth on a par with him and sees themselves as equals in greatness. This is quite strange, as Lady Macbeth would be considered Macbeth’s ‘property’ not his “partner in greatness”. The letter itself is written in prose, it has not particular pattern of verse.
Shakespeare chose this as it gives Macbeth a simple and pure image. Lady Macbeth however speaks in blank verse, giving here a darker and more cunning image. This will become more doggerel as the play progresses as Lady Macbeth loses her grip on sanity. It is also quite dramatic how both Lady Macbeth and the witches talk in blank verse. This gives the audience the feeling of similarity whenever Lady Macbeth is on stage to whenever the witches are. As a result of this Lady Macbeth is connected to the witches and given an evil image. After all, the witches worship Hecate, who is the goddess of witchcraft.
Lady Macbeth instantly rules out the possibility of Macbeth getting the crown by fair play and considers the murder of King Duncan the only way that they can seize the crown. She is worried that Macbeth will not have enough courage to perform murder, this being the man who has just won Scotland’s two battles in quick succession. Lady Macbeth knows that Macbeth is loyal, meaning he will kill for his country and fellow man but also “full o’ th’ milk of human kindness.” She knows he could not kill an innocent man and that is why she comes up with her plan to get rid of King Duncan.
Lady Macbeth is widely considered as the person to blame for Duncan’s death and that Macbeth is felt sorry for, as it was Lady Macbeth and her evilness, which convinced him into doing it. I don’t actually agree with this. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth show their similarities again by what they think whenever hearing the prophecy. He considers killing Duncan to get the throne but tries to rid himself by saying-
“My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,”
“If chance will crown me king, why chance may crown me king
Without my stir”
There is alliteration with the letter ‘c’. ‘C’ is a sharp letter sound and this symbolises how dangerous, and perhaps knee-jerk the decision was by Macbeth to kill Duncan.
He is trying to reassure himself that he would not kill Duncan, but he isn’t successful (as we later find out). The idea to Macbeth is shrugged off as fantastical but it hangs around. He considers it deeply, although he doesn’t tell the others, and pretends to not have thought about it to Banquo-
“I think not of them.”
So it is not completely accurate to blame the planning of Duncan’s murder on Lady Macbeth. Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth consider (or in Lady Macbeth’s case, does not consider) the options before them and the option of murder.
The audience then are shown a dark and evil side to Lady Macbeth. She reveals her plans for Macbeth and Duncan. Lady Macbeth creates a hellish atmosphere by saying-
“The raven himself is hoarse…
That croaks that fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements.”
The raven is a fowl and repulsive bird connected with death. The image of the raven being at the Macbeth’s castle for Duncan clearly shows what she has planned for him and idea of it being hoarse shows how strongly she feels about committing this deed. Also the use of the personal pronoun ‘my’ in the phrase “my battlements” also hints that she intends to play a part in the murder. This is something that is expanded upon in her prayer to the evil spirits.
In this prayer we are shown a different side of Lady Macbeth. We are shown that she is full aware of the perception of a woman in the seventeenth century.
“Come you spirits
That tend on the mortal thoughts, unsex me here.”
Lady Macbeth has been taught by her upbringing that a woman would never be able to kill a man, let alone a king. She had been taught that only a man would be capable of murder and this is what she is pleading to the evil spirits. She is asking them to take away her femininity and give her the strength of a man so she will be able to carry out the murder.
In the phrase-
“fill me from the crown to the toe”
Shakespeare uses a pun, as Lady Macbeth is asking her whole body to be filled with evil but the use of the word “crown” makes it into a pun. Lady Macbeth is plotting about how to get the crown from Duncan and by using the word “crown” it reminds the audience what the big picture is for Lady Macbeth. To get the crown at all costs. Shakespeare is portraying Lady Macbeth as a strong and evil character for two reasons.
First he is doing it to challenge the seventeenth century thoughts of women being weak. Shakespeare is trying to show the audience (which would have been mostly men) that women are in fact stronger and more cunning then they are given credit for. He is using Lady Macbeth to show this and it is apparent by the way she bosses and manipulates Macbeth.
He is also creating sympathy for Macbeth. At this point the audience are feeling sorry for the “great” and “worthy” Macbeth, as he has married an evil ‘devil’. This is important to note, as later in the play we feel sorry for Lady Macbeth as she goes crazy and also detest Macbeth for the murders of innocent people he commits.
She asks the evil spirits to-
“Fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty; make thick my blood,
Stop up th’ access and passage to remorse”
Lady Macbeth is pleading to be full of “direst cruelty”. She wants the motivation to push on with the murder even if Macbeth is pulling against her. This shows how well Lady Macbeth knows Macbeth, as she is aware he will get nervous or will try to back out, which he does. She asks for the strength to stand up against Macbeth (something she ‘should not be doing’) and be able to convince him. She also knows Duncan. He has given her gifts and Macbeth power and titles. Lady Macbeth is afraid of feeling sorry for him whenever they meet and as a result pull out of the murder. This is why she asks-
“Stop up th’ access and passage to remorse.”
Her expression when asking-
“No compunctious visitings of nature”
Shows that she is aware that the murder is unnatural. She is fully aware that Duncan is sent from God and she will be killing God’s earthly representative. So Lady Macbeth asks the evil spirits to help her overcome God, which is quite ironic.
Lady Macbeth continues asking the evil spirits to help her and at one point even asks-
“That my knife see not the wound it makes.”
This is quite outrageous as once again she is suggesting she will carry out the murder on Duncan, instead of Macbeth performing the deed. The personnel pronoun “my” implies this.
In the time of James I it was considered that the wives of Thanes, Earls and Princes spent their days pondering on how to get more powerful, and ultimately Queen. Lady Macbeth is one of those people I believe. She is of high rank, left on her own a lot and obviously is feeding herself with daydreams of ambition. Whenever it looks like the opportunity has arisen via the witches prophecies she mistakes the courage of fantasy for the realities of consequence and guilt. She has a mind deluded with ambition and convinces her husband with a superhuman audacity if fancy which she will be later unable to support.
At this point Macbeth appears on stage and Lady Macbeth shows how two faced she is. One second she is talking about murdering the king and the next she is saying “Great Glamis, Worthy Cawdor.” Macbeth has one great weakness, in accordance with Aristotle who said that the main character in a tragedy should have one fatal flaw. If someone were to pay Macbeth a compliment he would do just about anything for them. Lady Macbeth is a sycophant and therefore can manipulate Macbeth to do whatever she wants.
She informs Macbeth of what they must do but uses euphemisms of the words murder to make it sound less serious. She uses the words “provided for…great business…dispatch” instead of murder. These are less emotive and therefore less offensive as it would be to use the word murder. She cannot risk scaring Macbeth out of committing the murder, as Macbeth is perceived as extremely loyal to Duncan. By using these words instead she manages to make Macbeth regard the murder as less serious.
In Act one Scene seven Macbeth is weighing up what he should do. Some people believe that Lady Macbeth forced Macbeth into the murder; I however do not consider this to be entirely true. There is part of him is acting out of free will, although Lady Macbeth convinces him in the end. Macbeth shows in his soliloquy that he still wants the crown-
“He hath honoured me of late: and I have brought
Golden opinions from all sorts of people,
Which would be worn now in newest gloss…”
Macbeth is saying how much he is enjoying being famous and powerful. Surely if he were to become king he would definitely have more power, and undoubtedly gain more compliments. However he is still debating what to do as he realises that it was Duncan who gave him the power and titles and that it would not be a good idea to bite the hand that feeds. Macbeth is unsure of what to do and once again decides to leave it up to destiny. However, it seems to me that Macbeth wants to be convinced into committing the murder and later puts up little fight against lady Macbeth.
While Macbeth is in his soliloquy a feast is occurring and Lady Macbeth comes to get Macbeth, as it looks suspicious that Macbeth is not at his own feast. Macbeth instructs Lady Macbeth ” we will proceed no further in this business.” Lady Macbeth then has to bring Macbeth back round to the idea. She uses a number of methods to persuade him to change his mind again. Firstly she says that Macbeth promised her that he would do it and is now breaking his promise. However, he never promised her he would do it, and it was Lady Macbeth how made the deal.
“What beast was’t then
That made you break your enterprise?”
Lady Macbeth is fully aware that her husband is considered loyal and she is hoping that his loyalty will make him keep his word to her. This is ironic as if Macbeth is loyal to his wife and word then he will be un-loyal to his king. Macbeth is truly in a lose-lose situation. She is also pointing out that it was Macbeth who aroused the prospect of murdering Duncan to become king.
Next she taunts Macbeth’s masculinity and calls him a coward-
“Art thou afeared
To be the same in thine own act and valour
As thou art in desire?”
Macbeth would have been deeply insulted by this. His rank and fame depend on his courage and bravery. If Macbeth were really a coward then all his fame would be a fraud. Of course, we know he is not a coward but this is an important approach by Lady Macbeth.
Her next act of persuasion is by saying he cannot love her-
“From this time
Such I account thy love.”
Lady Macbeth is peaking in a masterful tone. The audience would have been shocked by this comment as we are given the impression of their relationship being extremely intense. This taunt really gets to Macbeth, but Lady Macbeth is not finished. I believe that Lady Macbeth had a child, however it died when it was very young. She uses the image of her child to represent how big of a sacrifice she would have made to make Macbeth king. She uses this terrible, violent imagery as a shock tactic-
“I have given suck, and know
How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums
And dash’d the brains out, had I sworn as you
Have done to this.”
Lady Macbeth realises that Macbeth doubts about the murder must be overcome quickly. She recognises that it requires extreme measures, as Duncan is only staying one night and if they delay their chance would be away.
Lady Macbeth’s persuasion works quickly and it does not take long until he submits to her taunts, even though she has been so harsh on him-
“I am settled and bend up
each corporal agent to this terrible fate.”
This suggests Macbeth’s moral views have been twisted into submission and bent to suit Lady Macbeth.
Now that they have decided to murder, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth’s relationship becomes even more intense than before. It is a passionate, obsessive, almost even sexual excitement surrounding the two working together in the murder-
“What cannot you and I perform upon
Th’ unguarded Duncan?”
The use of a rhetorical question soothes and reassures Macbeth. Lady Macbeth’s tone is no longer sharp and aggressive but relaxed and relaxed, changing the mood between the couple.
The time soon arrives for them to commit the murder. Act two commences with Banquo sleepwalking as he has been having dreams about the Weird Sisters. He tells Macbeth this and asks Macbeth to talk to him about them. Macbeth shows how involved he now is and tells Banquo, his best friend-
“I think not of them.”
This is of course a lie as Macbeth has thought about nothing else. It shows that Macbeth is trying to make himself look innocent from the murder, which was about to happen. By saying he has not thought about the Weird Sisters Banquo then should not think Macbeth killed Duncan to become king.
In Act two Scene two we are shown that Lady Macbeth is not all she claims to be-
“That which hath made them drunk hath made
What hath quenched them hath given me fire.”
Lady Macbeth required alcohol to give her strength. Alcohol gives a false courage so we are shown that Lady Macbeth did not really have all the ‘male aspects’ she said she had to carry through with the murder.
Throughout the scene Macbeth reveals his weaknesses but also his strong conscience. Because of Lady Macbeth’s persuasiveness he finds the courage to kill Duncan, but now he shows his fears, sorrow and regret for the assassination. When Macbeth arrives in the scene after having killed Duncan, he is shaken as he though he heard someone in the next chamber. Lady Macbeth tries to reassure him by telling him-
“I only heard the owl scream and crickets cries.”
Macbeth does not believe her and is getting paranoid about the noises he heard. He claims-
“One did laugh in’s sleep, and one cried
He insists that Malcolm and Donaldbain heard what he did and even though she tries, her reassurance does not convince his guilty conscience Macbeth, knowing that he committed a horrible crime and a sin in the form of regicide felt so guilty that-
“I could not say ‘Amen’
When they did say ‘God bless us!'”
Macbeth knows now that what he performed was a breach of the Divine Rights and therefore a crime directly against God. He knows that God will never forgive him and recognises his damnation to hell.
Not only this, Macbeth claims he-
“heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!’
Macbeth does murder sleep, the innocent sleep.”
Sleep has been personified, as you cannot murder an action in human life. This is significant because sleep is a natural order of daily life and sleep deprivation cause many illnesses. Sleep is also innocent and only the innocent can sleep. Macbeth has murdered an innocent person and as a result “murder(ed) sleep.” This is why the voice says-
“Macbeth shall sleep no more.”
In the murder scene Macbeth finally realises the gravity of his crime. This is when he realises that the murder was morally wrong, not just illegal and also that there were other paths to power.
Macbeth now knows that he will regret his deeds for the rest of his life. We are shown this when he says-
“Will all great Neptune’s oceans wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No, this hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.”
He recognises that no matter how hard he tries he will always have the murder hanging over him. Now with hindsight Macbeth knows it is better to be a coward (green) than to be a murderer (red).
This is the exact opposite with Lady Macbeth as she claims
“A little water clears us of this deed.”
Lady Macbeth gets involved with actual carrying out of the murder whenever Macbeth returns with the guards’ daggers and refuses to return them.
Lady Macbeth says-
“Had he not resembled
My father as he slept, I had done’t.”
This shows that although Lady Macbeth claims to be capable of murder, she could not have carried it out on Duncan as he reminded her of her father. However, another interpretation could be that this was as excuse, a cover up. Perhaps when it came down to carrying out the murder she could not do the deed and left it to Macbeth.
At this point of the play Lady Macbeth has no regret about the murder, whereas Macbeth wishes he could-
“Wake Duncan with thy murder.”
The morning after the murder Lady Macbeth faints without any warning. She faint to distract the attention from her husband in case some sees through his elaborate excuses. She also is genuinely shocked and overcome, and her strength leaves her.
She definitely distracts attention from Macbeth and her line-
“Help me hence, ho!”
The alliteration on the letter ‘h’ and the exclamation mark suggest this could be said in a very theatrical way, but she may also start to feel alone and scared by Macbeth’s words and actions-
“Here lay Duncan,
His silver skin lac’d with his golden blood
Steep’d in the colours of their trade, their daggers
Unmannerly breech’d with gore.”
At the start Lady Macbeth had to use all her acts of persuasion to convince Macbeth to murder. How he is committing it without consulting her, it has become frighteningly easy for him. Perhaps she was overcome with what Macbeth had become.
Lady Macbeth was not expecting the guards murder and was shocked by it. She was not prepared for more death. This marks a break-up of Lady Macbeth’s control over Macbeth as he was acting without her advice or knowledge-
“My hands are of your colour, but I shame
to wear a heart so white…
A little water clears us this deed,
How easy it is, then!”
She is starting to fell the pressure of what she has done as she is ashamed of herself for appearing so good. Lady Macbeth is also reassuring herself by saying “a little water clears us of this deed.” Lady Macbeth thought that the killing of Duncan would have been it, the end. She was foolish for thinking this, and now she is perhaps realising what she has started, a chain of deaths, which will ultimately end with hers and Macbeth’s death.
Since the murder of Duncan, Macbeth has started to hide things from Lady Macbeth. After he goes behind her back about the murder of the guards he also orders the murder of Banquo, his best friend. This was because Banquo had figured out what Macbeth had done-
“Thou play’dst most foully for’t”
By Macbeth going behind his wife’s back by ordering this murder it marks the deterioration in their relationship. Their trust has been destroyed and their loyalty will soon follow.
When Lady Macbeth asks her husband-
“Why do you keep alone?”
She is concerned for Macbeth. She is worried that his guilt is making him withdrawn and forcing him to draw on the past. It may also be interpreted that she is feeling isolated and is wishing to regain control of their relationship. Macbeth replies by saying-
“Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck.”
Macbeth is being more assertive and taking charge. He is also comforting Lady Macbeth as she is feeling the strains of her actions now. This is a complete contrast of their previous roles when Macbeth depended on Lady Macbeth to tell him what to do and how to act. Macbeth used to call Lady Macbeth “dearest partner”, whereas now she is merely a “chuck”. By acting alone Macbeth is also putting extra pressure on their relationship as there are now secret being kept and everything is not out in the open.
The banquet is Macbeth’s first ever formal appearance as the king. It is crucial for the royal couple to appear in love and for Macbeth to be a good host and be in control of everything that is happening. Prior to this scene Macbeth had ordered the deaths of his beast friend and his son, killed a loved ing and suffered insomnia for days. After being told by the murderer that Fleance had escaped Macbeth is thrown back into panic. He describes himself as-
“Cabined, cribbed, confined, bound in
To saucy doubts and fears.”
He can longer rely on Lady Macbeth’s support and comfort about these murders, as she knows nothing about them.
Lady Macbeth notices Macbeth’s absences from the celebration and is afraid that people will notice this. (Similar to the feast on the night of Duncan’s murder.) She tells him to return to the feast but the ghost of Banquo is sitting in his place. Only Macbeth can see this.
Macbeth suffers a ‘fit’ from seeing the ghost and Lady Macbeth must step to cover up-
“My lord if of the thus,
And hath been from his youth.”
It is possible to separate Macbeth’s reaction to Banquo’s ghost into two. The first reaction would be the natural human reaction, to be terrified. He does not understand why Banquo has reappeared and is absolutely petrified-
“They rise again,
With twenty mortal murders on their crowns,
And push us from our stools.”
Macbeth just does not understand what is happening and why things are no longer doing what they should. Another issue may be Macbeth being worried of Duncan’s ghost reappearing and taking revenge. The ghost disappears but reappears shortly after.
It is important to note that Lady Macbeth’s persuasion no longer works-
Lady Macbeth: “What! Quite unmann’d in folly.”
Macbeth: ” If I stand here, I saw him.”
Lady Macbeth: “Fie, for shame!”
She tells him off similarly to the way she scolded him before the murder, but now it is different. She does not know the problem as she cannot see the ghost and has not got Macbeth’s faith in the supernatural.
The second time the ghost appears Macbeth takes a different approach. He challenges it-
“Hence, horrible shadow!
Unreal mock’ry, hence!”
He realises that the ghost is only a figment of his imagination and decides to try and rescue the feast, however Lady Macbeth decides it would be for the best if the guests left. Macbeth decides-
“I will tomorrow
And betimes I will, to the Weirs Sisters.
More shall they speak; for now I am bent
This is a real turning point. Macbeth has now put his faith in the supernatural; his marriage is no longer the source of his strength. Macbeth has almost given up trying to control the situations and by returning to the witches he is admitting he is beaten.
Another interesting point is the way they differ in their opinions on how to fix problems. Macbeth turns to the supernatural and the witches whereas Lady Macbeth looks for the easy natural way to fix problems, a little water sleep-
“You lack the season of all natures, sleep.”
Also, Lady Macbeth is still concerned about how they act and cope as a couple. On her own she has no power, she only has power through her husband. It is important for her therefore to make sure their relationship works.
Lady Macbeth, who earlier thought that the murder would have no effect on her, goes mad. She starts to sleepwalk and has nightmares about the murder and sees the blood on her hands still. She feels the need to be cleansed of her sins. Shakespeare uses a metaphor to show Lady Macbeth’s wish to be cleansed-
“Out damned spot! Out, I say! One, two; why then
‘Tis time to do’t.”
She wishes to rid her conscience of the murder, something which she previously thought would not be on her conscience. She never saw the evil of Duncan’s murder lasting, and that once they had committed it, that would be the story over. Duncan’s blood is haunting her.
Lady Macbeth does not blame anyone else for the murder. She does not blame Macbeth of the Weird Sisters, solely herself. She re-runs what part she plays in the murder-
“Fie my lord, fie! A
Soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows
it, when none can call our power to account.”
She is almost mocking herself and how stupid she was to think that they would get away with regicide and that would be it. Lady Macbeth know realises how foolish she was to think her daydreams would come true and blames no one but herself for forcing Macbeth to carry through with the murder.
Nevertheless, she is still traumatised by Macbeth and his chain of killings. She is absolutely devastated about the slaughter of Lady Macduff and her children-
“The Thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now?
What! Will these hands ne’er be clean? No more
O’ that, my lord, no more o’ that.”
This is quite significant as not only does lady Macbeth blame herself for Duncan’s murder, this shows that she is blaming herself for the murder of Banquo, the guards, Lady Macduff and her children. She is accepting responsibility for all the murders, even the ones that Macbeth did not consult with her about. The words are also no longer wrote in blank verse. They are doggerel and stunted, which marks Lady Macbeth falling away from nobility.
By the end of the scene we are shown Lady Macbeth’s isolation has driven her mad. This is the isolation that comes with unaccountable power, which shows us that she did not know what she was getting into whenever she watered the seed of murder in Macbeth’s head-
“Come, come, come, come, give me your hand. What’s
Done cannot be undine. To bed, to bed, to bed.”
Lady Macbeth later commits suicide due to being unable to cope with her isolation from her husband and the guilty conscience of all the murders. Whenever Macbeth is told about this he seems weary and tired-
“She should have dies hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day.”
His reaction is not one that was expected. He does not cry like Macduff talked about doing whenever he heard his wife died. Macbeth’s reaction is very quiet, thoughtful and subdued. He no longer seems to have the ambition he used to have, and without Lady Macbeth, is only half of who he was. His power and motivation for life vanish-
“Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow.”
He now knows that he is about to be delivered his punishment and realises he can never return to a time before he was poisoned with foul ambition. He then cries to everyman on the battlefield to try and kill him, as he believes he has an infallible prophecy-
“None of women born
Shall harm Macbeth.”
Macduff proves to be the exception as he was-
“From his mother’s womb
Macduff was born by a Caesarean and therefore was technically not born of woman. The witches had fooled Macbeth and he was beheaded by Macduff and set as an example of what happened to a traitor. Malcolm is later crowned as the new king. Malcolm describes Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as-
“This dead butcher, and his fiend-like queen.”
Both Macbeth or Lady Macbeth never intended things to end up in this state and neither wanted so many people to get killed. They simply wanted to kill Duncan and that be it. They were foolish in thinking that Duncan’s murder would be the end and as a result all of Macbeth’s past heroics for Scotland will be forgotten and he will go down in history as a “butcher.”
Their marriage obviously deteriorates throughout the play. At the start they address each other with a great deal of affection and have an extremely intense relationship. Lady Macbeth was in control of the marriage and she was able to intimidate Macbeth into doing what she wanted. At this stage you would undoubtedly argue that Lady Macbeth was a “fiend” and whenever Macbeth carried out the murders of Duncan, Banquo and the Macduffs you could not deny he was a “butcher.”
After the murder, with the exception of the banquet scene, Lady Macbeth is sidelined form her husband. Macbeth’s murders no longer include an input from Lady Macbeth and we start our opinions switch. We start to detest Macbeth and feel sympathy for Lady Macbeth. He suicide is a powerful statement about how her conscience has devoured her and that she could not rod her of the deed. Macbeth’s response then shows us that he knows feel totally on his own and shows that he has lost passion for life.
The Macbeth’s may have been interlocked in their ambition, but they were also locked onto a path of destruction. They could not avoid their fate after they committed the first murder and as a result their marriage was doomed. The main difference is our opinions on the character. At the beginning we feel sympathy for Macbeth as he has a foul wife, but by the end we feel sympathy for Lady Macbeth as she has a foul husband. They were effective when they worked together on Duncan’s murder, but they could not rid their conscience of the deed. They grew apart and were no longer a team. This lead to their inevitable, tragic deaths and the world going full circle by Malcolm’s gaining of the throne.